Just hours prior to the (freezing cold) NHL100 Classic against the Montreal Canadiens in Ottawa, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said something that is sure to make tempers boil on Friday night. The owner stated that he would consider moving the franchise.
“If it doesn’t look good here, it could look good somewhere else,” Melnyk said. “But I’m not suggesting that right now. That’s always the possibility with any franchise.
“If you open a grocery store and nobody comes, but one opens two blocks down and there’s a line outside, where are you going to have your store?”
Melnyk was serious about his comments, though he made sure to add that he believes in the market in Ottawa.
“I don’t bluff,” Melnyk said. “I won’t sell it. It just won’t happen. Imagine if you own a McDonalds franchise, but you can move it. Why would you sell it? It’s something that’s very difficult to buy. We’re doing OK here. We’re not doing great.”
TSN's Frank Seravalli has documented the recent troubles in Ottawa, but Melnyk denied rumours that he recently missed a payroll for front office staff or failed to reimburse scouts for expenses. He did however admit that some financial dilemmas linger.
“We are probably one of the thinnest management groups in the league,” Melnyk said. “The next thing you have to look at is players … It’s a direct relationship between revenue and how much you spend on players … We spend $68 million a year. Unlike everyone says, ‘You are cheap?’ Are you kidding me? … Even at $68 million, that’s way too much over a revenue base that we have.”
His comments will resonate with the recent comments made by captain Erik Karlsson, who can receive a contract extension this summer. The Sens star defenseman revealed he would look to get top dollar in the NHL.
“We want to keep and maintain great players. You see what’s going crazy with salaries and bonuses,” Melnyk said. “We can’t keep spending at the top end and getting the lowest revenues. It just doesn’t work.”
Melnyk is hoping more tickets will be sold elsewhere - downtown - as Ottawa failed to sellout Canadian Tire Centre during last year’s Eastern Conference final. He did fire a shot at fans, looking for them to show up at games.
“When you get to the third round of the playoffs and you’re begging people to buy a ticket, something’s wrong with that picture. We’re just hoping that changes. We’re not pushing, we’re not doing anything other than trying enthusiastically.”
The owner did reiterate the importance of the project to build an arena downtown Ottawa, and the options that has presented themselves to make it come true.
“We need something to happen at one point. Something’s got to break for us somewhere.”